The Athletic have been speaking to Richard Keys and Andy Gray. It’s a lovely interview by David Harding, which deserves to be read. And dissected. So we did.
“There is absolutely nothing I miss about the UK.”
Oh. Morning, Richard. In fairness, the feeling is mutual. How’s the presenting gig going over there in Doha…
“We don’t get watched at the weekend by tens of thousands of people, we get watched by tens of millions of people. This is a far bigger job than the one I had at Sky, far bigger. Talking to far more people now, in a far more influential part of the world now.”
Define ‘influential’, Keysey.
“If people think we’ve scuttled off to some Middle Eastern backwater, think again.”
Backwater (noun): A place or situation in which no development or progress is taking place.
Amnesty International would suggest that’s bang on the money, Richard. But let’s not get bogged down in the small stuff like human rights. Tell us about your Twitter activities.
“I am James Milner. I am dull and I don’t do a lot.”
Aside from relentlessly sticking the boot into British Airways, VAR and Rafa Benitez, that is true. Although you are no European champion. Anyway, how are things with you and Andy?
“We aren’t in each other’s pocket but if one’s out at an event, so too the other.”
Like a desert Ant and Dec (thanks to Dan Harding for that one). Or Barry and Paul. Or Fred and Rose…
“It’s a small place. It’s a glorious, glorious lifestyle.”
Aye, for some. And you’ve said. Half a million times.
Anyway, on to what took Keys and Gray away from our screens and saw them
scuttle gloriously relocate to the Middle East: All the sexism.
“The world has changed. The world is a very different place right now to the world I grew up in. And I think everyone has to change along with it and I like to think that I have.”
You took your sweet time, Andy. But OK, let’s go with it.
“The things you get away with in 1975 when I came to England and the kind of banter, for want of a better word, that you could get away with on a football pitch, in a dressing room, in general, has changed dramatically, so you have to change a lot with it. I’d like to think I have.”
Isn’t it funny how things can change over nearly half a century? Many at Sky presumed you would catch on quicker.
Back to Keys, who was ‘more ready to chat’, according to the interviewer. This despite Keys claiming: “I don’t engage with the English press.”
Really? A few paragraphs prior, Keys is said to be ‘devouring newspapers or watching current affairs’ programmes for up to three hours a day’. And he himself later states that “I like reading The Guardian”. A quick scroll through Keys’ Twitter account also suggests it to be bullsh*t.
But back to the big topic: all the
chauvinism red hot banter. Tell us about the Sian Massey-Ellis debacle.
“I still don’t know what happened. Sian Massey is a friend of mine, she’s a friend of Andy’s. We exchange messages. At the time, we spoke, we laughed. It was her phrase, ‘Banter’.
“‘Oh, come on Richard. It’s just banter. I expected it at Sunderland last week (when she made her debut)’.
“We were in an environment, like you live in, and I am quite sure everybody else has sat, in in their lives, having a chuckle in a manner in which people do. Come on.”
Still not getting it, are you, Richard old boy?
But that is big of Sian Massey-Ellis to move on and build bridges with the men who mocked and ridiculed her. Tell us about that dynamic…
“When I say we are friends, we are friendly and have been ever since and yes, we exchange messages from time to time.”
“Andy saw her at an airport recently.”
She obviously didn’t see him first. Or at all.
“Sian was never, ever in any way to blame for what happened at Sky. I have no axe to grind with Sian and never have.”
Of course not. Why the f**kety f**k would you?!
“It’s fantastic that she’s done what she has.”
Indeed. But surely you can see that what you said was wrong, Richard?
“Was it sexist? Looking at it now, yes it was. Was it disrespectful? Yes, it was.”
Ooh, this sounds like a breakthrough. Although the “looking at it now” does not fill us with too much hope; he should probably have looked at it then.
“Was it said in a public arena? No.”
“Should a mobile phone have been recording our studio that day? A studio is like a football dressing room, it’s a boisterous place. No different happened in that studio than did in any dressing room that morning anywhere in the UK.”
It wasn’t his fault; how could he possibly have known a dastardly mobile phone was recording his sexism?
And why is a studio like a dressing room, Keysy? Does that make every workplace sacrosanct? If I slur Winty in the office on the basis that she has a vagina, am I covered? I mean, she’d systematically destroy me physically and emotionally, but that wouldn’t be fair because an office can be ‘a boisterous place’ too, right? How about if someone said that of your daughter in her workplace? Or your daughter’s mate? Oh, you’ll come to that.
Anyway, just because people act like dicks in dressing rooms doesn’t excuse it in dressing rooms either.
What this conversation needs is some irrelevant whataboutery. Here comes the Carragher defence…
“Look at the things that have happened. I didn’t go downstairs to the dressing room door, knock on it and spit in her face.”
Yep, fair. You also didn’t really apologise or show any contrition or remorse, which seems key.
“And yet the guy that committed a criminal offence in a public arena, spitting in the face of a 14-year-old girl, was later welcomed back by Sky as a hero. Now, come on. Are there any similarities? I don’t think so.”
Indeed not. Carragher was punished with a suspension after making a full and frank apology, accepting complete responsibility for his actions. He didn’t blame the incident on the person being spat at because they happened to be recording it on a mobile phone.
Would it be fair to label you a dinosaur, RK?
“This perception I am in some ways a dinosaur… by the way, dinosaurs ruled the world for 300 million years, so if that’s what I am, so be it.”
‘ROAR!’ goes the Sexistosaurus.
Which is somewhat in contrast to his attempt at solemn contrition on talkSPORT in 2011 when he agreed to be interviewed for the first time since the Massey Tapes. Going on the record to say sorry and explain yourself – it was the right thing to do, though, wasn’t it, Richard?
“That awful talkSPORT interview I was forced into, with the message to say sorry a thousand times… my goodness, give me that hour again and I’ll tell you a very different story.”
Oh. Let’s have some more whataboutery then…
“On the day we left Sky, they’ve got Jonathan Ross on the movie channel, promoting movies. Now, what he and his mate Russell Brand did on air, I would suggest to you, was a million times more unacceptable. And yet, two years later, Sky were re-employing him.
“At the time, it was nothing more than was said by anybody else on that day all over the UK, including both dressing rooms.”
STOP TALKING ABOUT SODDING DRESSING ROOMS.
‘Smash it’ – that wasn’t great for your reputation was it, Richie Rich?
“I don’t know whether it will ever change within Britain.”
Not when you keep living up to it, no.
“I wish I had registered ‘Smash it!'”
That does sound like something you would do. Maybe it’s not too late, eh? Just in time to get some ‘Smash It’ t-shirts and mugs out for Christmas. Anyway, do continue.
“It wasn’t my phrase. It was a phrase brought to Sky by Jamie Redknapp. I’d never heard it.”
A likely f**king story.
“And the conversation he and I were having that night, in the edited tape from Chelsea, centred more around his contribution to that. I said ‘the edited tape’. Think about that.”
“All those tapes that were put out were edited, in order to make me appear to be a dark and sinister individual who didn’t know how to behave.”
The bloody Tories are at it again, doctoring footage. This sounds an awful lot like those ‘dark forces’ you discussed in that talkSPORT interview.
“A phone was left in the studio for a purpose.”
Probably, and it was probably to record you behaving like a dick. But the point is, you behaved like a dick, phone or no phone. You’re not getting this, are you?
The conversation, unlike Keys, moves on. Gray is asked whether to salvage his reputation, he should have edged away from his old mate.
“No, I mean, I can’t… I won’t answer that. It’s not something I want to get involved in. We’ve worked together for more years than I care to remember and hopefully, that will continue for at least another three years.”
Moving to Qatar hasn’t stopped either Keys or Gray being tabloid fodder. Keys especially when allegations surfaced that he had left wife Julia for Lucie Rose, 30, a friend of his daughter while Julia was fighting cancer.
“I’ll mention the unmentionable for you. Did I leave my wife fighting cancer? No. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why our marriage ended the way it did…”
You wrote a blog post blaming your daughter’s alcohol addiction, Dickie. But go on…
“But my wife was fighting cancer for seven years before I left her and she had been in remission for seven years. She and I went to London every day of her fight, prior to a ground-breaking operation that saw her in a period of recovery.
“Julia had been in remission for seven years. I know how hard it was for her when things went wrong. I wasn’t going to start engaging in a tit-for-tat, he-said, she-said, respond to everything that was said about me.
“If people believe that I walked away with my wife fighting cancer with a friend of my daughter’s, I can’t change that now. Tell a lie twice and it becomes the truth. Tell it on social media and it haunts you forever.
“I didn’t fall in love with a friend of my daughter’s. I am aghast at the standard of journalism in the UK now.”
Keys said in a statement last year: “Lucie Rose is not my daughter’s friend. They met twice, once in Qatar when I asked her and her friend to look after Jemma on a night out. It went horribly wrong.
“Lucie later went to see Jemma in London to see if she could help with her addictions. Sadly she couldn’t, but she wanted to try. That’s it.”
So that’s the bit they got wrong, which makes it all alright.
Anyway, we move on to criticism of Keys and Gray’s new home which they are enjoying. We know that because Keys never shuts up about it. But Gray takes up the baton first.
“It gets a lot of bad press, Qatar – particularly in Britain. I have no idea why.”
“Most of the people who hammer it have never been here and I think they’ll put on an amazing World Cup.”
I never went to Germany in the 1930s and the Nazis would probably have put on a lavish World Cup finals too; they pulled out all the stops at the 1936 Olympics. But I don’t have to have been there to know there were some wrong ‘uns about.
You know who has been there, though, Andy? Human Rights Watch.
What’s your take, Richard?
“This country, had it not been for the World Cup, would probably still be living in an era that the rest of the world would say was unacceptable. But the fact they have shined a spotlight on it, meant things had to change and they have. Things haven’t changed quickly enough, but they are.”
“This country is 50 years old. It takes time and I think they have done remarkable work…”
‘They’ being migrant
“… a remarkable job and I think people here should be proud of what they have done. And I don’t understand why it is that there shouldn’t be an Arab World Cup, the first one ever. I have said many times, ‘It’s not the England Cup, it’s the World Cup’. Football does not belong to England, it belongs to the world.”
Keys’ role as unofficial spokesman for the Gulf state earned him the moniker “Lord Haw-Haw of Qatar” from The Guardian’s Marina Hyde in 2014. Not that it bothers Keys.
Not even a bit.
“I like reading The Guardian, but they don’t seem to understand the irony of it. Here’s a newspaper that purports to be the voice of everybody and reason, and they are engaging in that backstreet, downmarket name-calling.
“Lord Haw-Haw was a vile, destructive individual who got what he should have had post-Second World War. He was hung. For people to think it is acceptable to call me Lord Haw-Haw, when I sit here… it’s not the way to conduct yourself.”
Are you proud of yourself, Marina?
Hugely enjoying this Richard Keys interview in which he uses the words “One of the great ironies of me”, whilst he is fuming about my calling him the Lord Haw-Haw of Qatar. Apparently it’s not the way for me to conduct myself. pic.twitter.com/agTnAPyGk4
— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) November 19, 2019
The Guardian, on the face of it, wouldn’t be towards the top if any of us were asked to guess Keys’ reading list. But he’s full of surprises…
“I am a great Remainer. One of the great ironies of me is that I am more embracing, more joined-up, including feminism.”
Just read and enjoy that last sentence one more time.
“Brexit? I am with John Bercow. It would be the worst decision that the UK has made since the end of the Second World War. I don’t understand it all. I don’t understand Little England and that mentality. In a modern world, you have to be joined-up.”
“I am not sure that anybody over 60 should be allowed a vote if they get a second referendum, because it is not our world. It is for the youth of the UK to have a final say on their destiny. It shouldn’t be those of us of my generation that are dictating.
“I would be happier to see Brexit binned but I have been an ardent advocate of another referendum, that we have the truth, rather than a big bus touring the length and breadth of the UK telling lies.”
Wise words, but you will have to excuse us if we struggle to believe that there is any subject that Keys would not want his say on.
Would either Keys or Gray return to Brexit Britain when their contract in Qatar is up in 2023? Gray doubts that he’ll be back on the box…
“UK broadcasting and I have had our time together. The youth of today have taken over. I’ll be quite an old man when I get back from Qatar. I still feel fairly young and vibrant but I haven’t given it a thought. If I went back to the UK, I don’t plan to sit about if I’ve still got as much health as I’ve got now. I don’t want to sit about and twiddle my thumbs if I go back in 2023, whether I work there or not might not be up to me.”
Fair do’s. What will you do, Richard, when you return as a pensioner?
“At some point, I will share. Absolutely, absolutely and yes, I think it is possible that Andy and I will write a book at some point.”
If his autobiography is as good as his foray into blogging, then we are all in for an absolute treat.
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